Grassley Reminds Agencies of Key Whistleblower Protections, Seeks Compliance Details PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 10 May 2013 15:08

Friday, May 10, 2013

Grassley Reminds Agencies of Key Whistleblower Protections, Seeks Compliance Details

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today wrote to 15 government agencies, reminding them of recently enacted whistleblower protections and seeking information on their compliance with the new law.

“Whistleblowers risk their careers to point out government waste, fraud and abuse,” Grassley said.  “Without them, the public wouldn’t know about a lot of problems that had to be exposed to get fixed. Our government would be the weaker for it.  Protections for whistleblower communications with Congress and agency watchdogs are critical for whistleblowers’ good work to continue.”

Grassley wrote to the major executive branch agencies about the recently enacted Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which codified an “anti-gag” provision he introduced every year.  The provision makes explicit that agency nondisclosure agreements do not apply to communications with Congress or reporting violations and/or misconduct to an Inspector General, or any other whistleblower protection.  Agency nondisclosure agreements must include specific disclaimers to that effect, and those disclaimers must be posted on agency websites.

Grassley asked each agency for information including all forms, policies, or agreements mentioning communications with Congress used within the last five years and a detailed statement of the various efforts taken to post the “anti-gag” provision on the agency website.

Grassley wrote to the Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Department of Education, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Homeland Security.

Grassley is a long-time advocate for whistleblowers.  He was the Senate author of the 1986 whistleblower updates to the federal False Claims Act.  Since 1986, these provisions have recovered more than $30 billion that otherwise would be lost to fraud.

The text of Grassley’s letter follows here.  The text is the same for each of the 15 agencies.

 

May 10, 2013

VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki

Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20420

 

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

Time and again, whistleblowers courageously identify, often at great risk to their professional careers, waste, fraud, and abuse.  Unfortunately, as a result of their actions, whistleblowers often face intimidation, retaliation, and are subjected to prohibited personnel practices despite proscriptions against such action under federal law.[1]

As part of my efforts to protect whistleblowers, starting in 1988 I introduced an amendment known as the “anti-gag” provision to the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act.[2] This provision was adopted and has been included in every appropriations bill signed into law since 1988,[3] most recently in March 2013 as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013.[4] In addition the recently passed Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) codified the anti-gag provision as a prohibited personnel practice and thereby eliminated the need for annual revision.[5]

The new federal law now requires every U.S. Government nondisclosure policy, form, or agreement to contain an explicit statement notifying employees that nondisclosure requirements do not supersede their rights and obligations created by existing statute or Executive Order relating to classified information, communications to Congress, reporting violations and/or misconduct to an Inspector General, or any other whistleblower protection.[6] Moreover, the law requires any agency using a nondisclosure policy, form, or agreement to also post the aforementioned statement on the agency website, as well as a specific list of controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions.[7]

As the author of this rider and an original cosponsor of the WPEA who worked closely in drafting this provision with Senator Akaka, I want to ensure that this law is fully implemented.  Accordingly, please provide the following information:

1)      All forms, policies, or agreements which mention communications with Congress used within the last five years, including those with either non-disclosure or non-disparagement provisions.

2)      All forms, policies, or agreements which include the statutorily-defined statement informing employees of their rights on every nondisclosure policy.

3)      All forms, policies, or agreements which purport to limit a current or former employee’s ability to communicate directly with Congress, whether explicitly or as a part of a general prohibition without a specific Congressional exemption.

4)      A detailed statement of the various efforts that your department has taken to post the “anti-gag” provision on its website, along with a specific list of controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions.

Thank you in advance for ensuring your response arrives no later than May 24, 2013.  Should you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Chris Lucas of my Committee staff at (202) 224-5225.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member                               

Committee on the Judiciary

 

See 5 U.S.C. § 2302(a) (2006) (outlining prohibited personnel practices).

Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act, 1989, Pub. L. No. 100-440, 102 Stat. 1756 (1988).

See generally Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-74, 125 Stat. 932 (2011); Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-8, 123 Stat. 685 (2009).

Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, Pub. L. No. 113-6, Div. F, Title I, Sec. 1105 (referencing back to Pub. L. No. 112-74, Div. C, Title VII, Sec. 715).

Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-199, 126 Stat. 1465 (2012).


[1] See 5 U.S.C. § 2302(a) (2006) (outlining prohibited personnel practices).

[2] Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act, 1989, Pub. L. No. 100-440, 102 Stat. 1756 (1988).

[3] See generally Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-74, 125 Stat. 932 (2011); Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-8, 123 Stat. 685 (2009).

[4] Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, Pub. L. No. 113-6, Div. F, Title I, Sec. 1105 (referencing back to Pub. L. No. 112-74, Div. C, Title VII, Sec. 715).

[5] Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-199, 126 Stat. 1465 (2012).

[6] See id. § 104(b)(1).

[7] See id. § 115(a)(2).
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